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All checked in…

26 kids – 4 adults – passports and documents from a dozen countries.

All clear!  On the plane! Everything checked to destination. Life is good on the first leg of our adventure!

  

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Africa began…

The Ambassadors gathered at school for our departure at 3p today and the mood was good.  All was well prepared and every ounce of luggage utilized for the trip to meet the benefactors of their efforts.  Clothing and other gifts were packed in every nook and cranny.

So, as we now prepare for the long journey ahead (and the math tests I’m proctoring for some on the airplane), the mood is good and I feel a bus ride song is imminent.

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Africa Begins

I’m heading off tomorrow for an adventure with 27 of our high school students.  After a quick board meeting, I’m on a plane to Africa to help out with our school building projects in Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.  My thanks to all who contributed to this project both through the many activities throughout the year and via the Director’s Challenge fundraiser, which has raised US$13,000 thus far to push the kids to their goals.  You can still contribute to the project until the remaining spots are filled.  Contribute to the Director’s Challenge via PayPal or by direct payment to the AAS Cashier.

I’m heading off tomorrow for an adventure with 27 of our high school students.  After a quick board meeting I’m on a plane to Africa to help out with our school building projects in Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.  My thanks to all who contributed to this project both through the many activities throughout the year and the recent culmination through the Director’s challenge raising US$13,000 to push the kids to their goals.  You can still contribute to the project until the remaining spots are filled and completing the challenge while I’m away.

While I’m gone, I’m going to try and push out blog entries on my experiences with the kids.  So, please stay in touch via the Zimplicity blog and feel free to subscribe for my email feed to get notified of new content.

Finally, my thanks to all involved in Parent Conferences today.  I had a chance to spend some extra time in the North Gym this morning and there was a tremendously positive buzz in the room as both Middle School and High School reaffirmed our parent partnership for the work ahead in the final months of school.  Please offer your feedback to MS and HS administration for their hard work in preparing and implementing the new format.  They plan to review and continue to refresh their process next year based on your important input.

I should note that during my absence, you can seek out Ian Forster, Deputy Director, or Melissa Schaub, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for any concerns.  They will be capably steering the ship while I’m away.

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Director’s Challenge!!

Dear AAS Community,

Just a few more days until the AAS Ambassadors go on their service learning trip to Botswana and Zimbabwe to work on their project “AAS Builds Schools.” The Ambassadors are actively engaged in a primary school build, village development, and community garden project in Pandamatenga, Botswana. They are also working on a primary school build and maize field food program in Kamatanda, Zambia. In addition, our students are in partnership with the Baobab School in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe supplying textbooks and technology.

For the past several years, the students have organized many fundraising events to support their education projects. We are extremely proud of their hard work and applaud their effort! The adults in the community are now asked to help our students in reaching their fundraising goal by participating in the 2015-2016 Director’s Challenge.

The Director’s Challenge is an opportunity for adults in the AAS community to join together with our children to help them achieve something bigger than they can do on their own. We are inviting 20 families or groups to donate $1000 each to help our AAS Ambassadors spread global awareness through education and school building.

We still have eleven spots left in the 2015-2016 Director’s Challenge and would like to fill them before the students depart to Africa on their Discovery Week trip on Thursday, March 17. If you would like to donate via PayPal, please click here. You may also donate directly to the AAS Cashier. The donation form can be found here.

Thank you to our families and groups who have stepped up to the 2015-2016 Director’s Challenge thus far!

  • Ansell Family
  • AAS Administrative Team
  • Basaran-Danilov Family
  • Eustace/Ovchinnikov Family
  • McGrahan Family
  • McNeley Family
  • Parents of the Class of 2016
  • Vafeidis Family
  • Volkov Family
  • Walters/Hong Family
  • Yakubovskiy Family

If you have any questions, please contact rita.ehrman@aas.ru

 

Please click on the image above to view a documentary about the AAS Ambassadors and their work in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. Video produced by Grade 10 student Danielle Johnson.

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Newsletter – March 9 – International Women’s Day

We hope you all enjoyed your special holiday weekend with family during our extended days. I find that we sometimes forget the meaning behind holidays, so I wanted to make sure that we remind ourselves of the significance of International Women’s Day.  In this year, it is particularly poignant that we consider the roots of this special occasion and recognize Russia as one of the early founders of this date, with their own special context for its significance.  Their adoption of March 8th in 1917 is now broadly adopted throughout the world and particularly so when the United Nations called on all countries to adopt the date in 1977.  I remember with fondness our own students who put together Girl Rising just over two years ago as an extension of this theme.  I was very proud of their work and the inspiration it provided to all of our students.  In the short time since Girl Rising, we continue to see tremendous movement in the sphere of gender equality that has outpaced many of the decades prior.  I doubt that our students two years ago would have expected that we would see the growing number of female leaders in countries around the world, many ascending to power in the most recent decade.  We see evidence all around us that the last vestiges of discrimination are being uncovered, and gender discrimination in particular has been a focus of attention.  But, the work is far from complete until we fully level the playing field across all lines of diversity.  I have challenged staff to recommit themselves to this topic throughout the school in honor of this year’s International Women’s Day.  As a school that values tolerance and respect, we must hold these holidays in high regard as they remind us of the core tenets of our mission and vision — for ourselves and for the world.

Director’s Challenge

The challenge is working its way toward deadline next week and the donations are coming in as expected from our supportive and engaged community.  There are still positions available and the printed recognition poster leaves with me next week to adorn the walls of each of our three projects in Africa — and beyond.  I’m ready to speak on behalf of the community of AAS and the supporters that stand beside me in recognizing this important work.  Don’t miss out on having your name on this year’s challenge. Call me directly if you have any questions. (+7 495 231 4481) The paypal link for donations is still:  Director’s Challenge   If you’d like to make a payment to the AAS cashier, the donation form can be found here.

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Things you can count on…

Those of us who live the international life know that some things are often fickle.  We have all experienced the closure of a favorite restaurant, the change in service at a hotel, the often unpredictable attitude of a taxi driver, and the constant difficulties with government services, for almost all nationalities.  Both inside and outside our school walls, there are many challenges that we face because of differences in culture, language, and prior experiences.  Inside the school, we mesh a microcosm of extreme diversity, valuing a complex array of viewpoints.

In all of that, there is one school entity that I have found provides common ground and the equalizing backdrop of community that brings all of these forces together for the common good.  That entity is the PTO!

PTO is, second only to the core work that we do in the classroom each day, the most important unifying quality of a school.  It provides, as is suggested in policy, the linkage between motivated and involved parents and the critically important aims of the school in providing holistic excellence.  The wonderful, woven experience that your child enjoys is a product of a strong collaboration between the PTO and the school.  PTO helps to provide the fertile soil, in the form of unique experiences, that nurtures the students that we plant in this environment.  PTO provides community for all of us and that sense of community echoes through our nurturing actions in all aspects of our involvement.  I think we take this for granted at times and forget that this kind of PTO exists in only a few schools of our size and stature.  It is an important gem that we must cherish and hold in high regard, preserving and protecting it where possible.

In that regard, I encourage all of you to consider attending the PTO Spring Gala on April 2.  Tickets are currently on sale, and the budget of PTO depends on this annual activity.  The committee has taken great effort to assure that this gala is particularly representative of the community we serve.  To that end, they have maximized the number of places for your attendance so that a broadly diverse group of parents can celebrate in style.

PTO is something that you can always count on.  Like family, they are ready to serve in every way possible in support of our mission and vision.  Now, PTO wants to know, can they count on you?

See the PTO section of the newsletter for full information regarding ticket sales.

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Let the Challenge Begin…


Once in awhile, there is a project that comes into your life that truly inspires you.  You know that feeling you have in your chest, somewhere close to your heart, that tells you that the action you are about to take is just simply the right thing to do.  I had that moment recently, and it brings me to you today hoping that you will join me in supporting an important fundraiser, the Director’s Challenge 2015-2016.

The Director’s Challenge began in 2011-2012 to assist a student-led initiative of raising money to buy a tractor for Prozorova village, a small community 300km from Moscow.

The second Director’s Challenge held in 2013/2014 supported the AAS Ambassadors’ project of building a school in Pandamatanga, Botswana.  The premise of the Challenge is that I contribute $1000 to a student fundraiser and challenge 20 individuals, families, or groups to match the contribution.  The motto of this fundraiser is, “The Director’s Challenge is an opportunity for adults in the AAS community to join together with our children to help them achieve something bigger than they can do on their own.”  This is a wonderful opportunity for our entire community to support our children in their efforts while exemplifying the ‘Contributing as a Globally Aware Citizen’ and ‘Respecting Self and Others’ strands of the AAS Mission Statement.

Since the beginning of this school year, I’ve been working with the HS Ambassadors Club as they have been pursuing their dream of growing their work in both Russia and Africa.  They have now expanded their projects to include finishing the Pandamatenga project, and the new projects in Zambia and Zimbabwe.  In all three cases, the club is focused on building schools and helping provide education to those children who live in these areas.  They recognize that education is the critical element in a formula for the successful transformation of communities in dire need.  As I sat next to the real Ambassador from Zambia to Russia, our special guest at the Ambassadors’ fundraising dinner in December, I was inspired by our students and the tremendous effort that they continue to invest in these student-chosen and student-led projects.

In response to our students’ passion and commitment to this project, I’ve initiated my third Director’s Challenge.  On the night of the Ambassadors’ Dinner with our gracious hosts, the Vafeidis Family, I donated US$1000 to the project and challenged those in attendance to match me.  That night, two slots were taken within minutes of the challenge, so I have every faith the remaining 18 spots will go fast as parents and special partners step forward to take the latest Director’s Challenge. Contributing to this challenge is an opportunity to push our kids past their fundraising goals and put them in a position to realize their dreams of service through action.

I’m paying my own way to accompany the students to Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe in March to make sure that the projects are well supported.  I’ll be offering my expertise to the Pandamatenga project, assisting in the establishment of the governance structure of this new school to ensure the long-term sustainability of the project.  This is an extra layer of assurance that your donations will have the most significant effect possible.

Donations are being accepted now with the deadline of March 15 before I depart for Africa with our engaged and talented students.  We will be taking copies of the Director’s Challenge posters naming the contributors who supported these education projects; the posters will be proudly displayed as part of our work in these locations.  We hope your names will be on the posters!

Donation forms for the Director’s Challenge are available at this link and are also available in the Admin Office at the cashier counter.  You can also donate directly through the Ambassadors’ PayPal account by clicking HERE. Contact me directly if you have any questions.  Thank you in advance for your consideration of supporting these worthy projects.

You can also donate directly through the Ambassador’s PayPal account.




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Technology since the 1980’s

This is my life…

[KGVID]https://blogs.aas.ru/director/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2016/02/evolution.mov[/KGVID]

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Newsletter – February 10

I want to take this opportunity before our annual February break to thank parents for their ongoing involvement and tremendous flexibility and diligence during recent weeks.  We weathered the storm of the influenza outbreak together.  We practiced our emergency drills.  We got through all the many activities and performances with style and engagement.  Thank you to everyone for your enduring spirit during inclement weather, semester transitions, and the usual challenges of the season.  The sense of community in all corners of the building inspires us all each and every day.

We also celebrated the 100th day of school at the end of last week.  It’s hard to believe that there are only about 80 days remaining in the year.  All parents have been emailed the ‘Re-enrollment Survey 2016-2017’ regarding plans for next year.  We look forward to hearing from you soonest.  We have many applications rolling in for new students seeking placement at AAS, new friends for all of us who remain next year.  No different than any other year, we will be preparing to say farewell to some of you, and wishing you well on your next adventure.  But, that is still far away.  With much left to accomplish and complete, we focus our energies on the days ahead as learning shifts into high gear for the culminating activities of the year.

In March, I’m joining one of our High School Discovery Week trips.  I will be traveling with a student group to Africa and helping out with our three school building projects.  Look for some critically important news on this front right after the vacation.  We are excited about the expansion of our influence in this region as we bring our special model of service to key needy populations.  You may have an opportunity to play a special role in this for which I’d appreciate your earnest attention.  Stay tuned!!

To those who are traveling next week, I wish you a safe journey.  To all, please enjoy a well-deserved week of rest and reflection!  I look forward to your return and our ongoing collaboration.

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Newsletter – February 3

It’s been a busy week here at AAS with a number of activities that were enjoyed by many.  We capped off a weekend with the International School Theater Association and started the week with visiting musicians and dancers for an array of activity.  Thank you, PTO Enhancement Grant program!!  Click here for photos of the event.  Click here to view a video of the performance.

We continue to get updates from our sources with regards to health issues that were recently communicated to the community .  One question that I’ve heard from our community is regarding some of the press reports in and around Moscow and St. Petersburg.  It is true that some schools under government control are closing during this outbreak.  But, these schools were also already experiencing high absence rates that were topping 30% and 40%.  At that level, school administrators would generally agree that closing school is a necessary step to stem the tide of infection.  However, at AAS there has been no general call for the potential closing of school because our absence rate is well within seasonal norms.  Further, we are not seeing any growing spread of H1N1 variant amongst our population.  Our identified cases are still under 10 students and/or adults.

We believe that education is a vital endeavor and would not close school without much more evidence that it is prudent to do so.  With our health facilities and hygiene practices, we are managing infection well.  We communicate regularly with our main sources of information provided by the sponsoring Embassies.  None has recommended any action other than those previously communicated, which includes good hand washing and a strong policy regarding when students should remain at home due to illness.

Therefore, we believe that children are currently safe at school and that it is in their best interests not to interrupt their education.  We have one week left before our already scheduled February vacation, and this will naturally give us a chance to take a well-deserved rest after a busy transitional period.

As per the season, we will also be doing one of our emergency drills sometime later this week.  It is time to practice our Code Blue drill.  This is slightly different from a Code Red drill, but includes sheltering in classrooms and accounting for children before calling for an evacuation.  The evacuation is then directed to the gymnasium areas rather than to the fields.  One common use is in the case of a bomb threat against the school where there is a need to do an initial search of the facility before ordering an evacuation.  As usual, we’ll use the normal protocols and clear all hallways and public areas into adjacent safe zones.  If you are on campus during the drill, please be prepared to take directions from our security staff or administration.  We’ll also test our SMS system by letting you know on the day of the drill.

Additionally, one thing I want to encourage is everyone’s participation with our special guest  Erin Calmes and the screening of her wonderful production, Whale Wars!, @ 12:00p  on Saturday in the Bolshoi.  See you there!

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Newsletter – January 27, 2016

A quick note this week to encourage good health practices during this time of year.  I’ve noted the increase in some bugs going around. Some of them have hit students, parents, and staff quite hard in some cases.  Dr. Dalida has provided notes in his blurb from the Health Office on care and practice during the height of the flu season.  Please scroll down and read this section, in particular, this week.

Our primary concern is always about student health and well-being.  Coming back from a vacation can sometimes mean stress and sleeplessness if you traveled to distant locations.  Lack of sleep and exhaustion have been proven to be associated with a reduction of immunity for various viruses.  I’ve suggested this before, but it bears repeating that sleep is our best defense against many of the nasty symptoms that surround us.  Kids need 8+ hours per night and we shouldn’t let them talk us into late night study sessions that overly impact this number. Make sure that there is a good diet in place and that you keep nutrition supported at home as well.

Health and readiness for learning go hand in hand.  We are a village in this regard and should always think about how we collaborate on good habits that surround our respect of self.  Hygiene habits, while sometimes taught at school, should also be practiced at home.  Hand washing is a simple one that we can all check, and is very commonly one that we relax about too much.  From the youngest to the oldest student, we can all reflect on our habits and look for areas to improve.  It’s a complex puzzle of practice that leads to a healthy lifestyle.

Please continue to keep divisional offices informed about absences.  As is noted in the Health Office procedures below, divisions are trained to refer calls regarding illness to the health office staff so that they are tracking incident rates for general analysis and planning. We keep detailed records on all of our health-related contacts with students so that we can manage the environment and respond to any concerns.  Let us know if you have any questions in this regard.

But, mainly, please stay healthy and thoughtful during the remainder of this season.  Enjoy the beautiful surroundings, but dress well for the weather.  And follow all of the other wonderful cultural traditions that mothers and fathers hand down from generation to generation.  For me, that means lots of fresh fruit and chicken soup in the weeks ahead!!

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Penguin Crosswalk

I caught on CNN this morning that today, January 20, is Penguin Awareness Day (not to be confused with World Penguin Day in April).  I couldn’t help but smile as I read the article and thinking, as I often do, about the little “penguins” running around school every day.  I know that some have chided us for our Penguin mascot, noting that we are in the wrong hemisphere generally and legitimately the furthest distance possible from places where penguins are actually found.  Not only that, but the lack of any nearby ocean is usually the second giggle that sends us into fits of laughter.

We’ve done much with our Penguin heritage to weave it as both a sports mascot and an emblem for Penguin Life, the nurturing spirit of the school.  It’s interesting when you read about Penguins and come to realize the many parallels between Penguin knowledge and the many beliefs and core values that we hold at the Anglo-American School.  Penguins at their core are known as nurturers.  We all know the stories of penguins holding precious eggs on their feet in bitter cold to bring new life into the world.  It’s a poignant tale of what parents and educators commit to in service to children and their growing into adults.  It’s a message of service and self-sacrifice that sits at the core of the spirit of family and community.  It is seen played out in so many ways when we choose the well-being of our children over the other comforts of life.

When you start reading about Penguins in more depth, you are introduced to the tremendous diversity within the species.  There are penguins of all shapes, sizes, and kinds.  A splendid array of unique qualities — not unlike our “colony” here at AAS.  A diverse spectrum of culture and background brings depth and insight into our community, challenging us to be open-minded and global thinkers. Embracing the diversity of our “chicks” is core to our beliefs.  We value what they bring to the conversation and that diverse perspective enriches the broader community, whether in the classroom, or in broader school-wide settings.

The parallels continue for this noble bird and I hasten to add that the Penguin, like many animals on our planet, is also facing serious environmental threats today.  We must always be looking for ways to preserve and sustain all the inhabitants of our planet.

But, for the moment, let’s embrace Penguin fact finding and read about Penguins with your child today.  There’s more than enough available online.  Might I suggest you begin with “29 Thinks You Might Not Have Known About Penguins.”

Happy Penguin Awareness Day!!

Mr. Z

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Welcome back and Happy New Year to all!!

When last I wrote, we were heading into the final days of 2015 and thinking about the messages we can send our children.  I suggested it was time to send messages of encouragement to balance the despair associated with recent media reports about events around the globe.  My congratulations to all for your work in adding many new comments to my stream from December.  In total, I received 12 comments with words of encouragement, quotes from other authors, and inspirational advice for the children of today.  It’s an important practice in order to balance the lives of our youngest to include more hope and resilience.  Thank you to all for your contributions!  I’ll be sharing these with students in some upcoming meetings.  You can still add your ideas to this list at any moment of inspiration!

With 2016 comes the joy and anticipation of a new calendar year, and the mid-point of the school year.  We have many things happening even in the short stretch of days between now and our February break.  It may seem like a short time, but there will be many activities and events that will fill it with energy and engagement at all levels.  The upcoming end of the semester is a critical junction in the year.  We see it as a point of ignition to begin applying skills learned to new and increasingly complex problems.

My best wishes to all in the coming weeks and also my heartiest welcome to our new families.  I was not with you on Monday due to finishing recruiting tasks, but look forward to joining you for other opportunities for meeting and greeting in the coming weeks.  Might I suggest to all new parents that next week’s PTO meeting would be a great time to get introduced.  I know the rest of the school community joins me in welcoming you!!

_MG_7841___Flickr_-_Photo_Sharing_Finally, my thanks to PTO for their generous support of the visit of Patch Adams.  We had wonderful involvement in his visit on the last day before vacation.  It was a truly inspirational opportunity for many of our students in Middle and High School.  We took some time to laugh at ourselves and also better understand how we might move to deeper understanding of our role in changing prevailing paradigms.  And, along with a couple of other brave students, I took a turn getting into Patch’s enormous “underpants.”  Patch shared with the audience that he has invited heads of state into this huge garment and hopes to one day invite the pope to jump into them as well.  My additional thanks to the TEDx team for making this happen on the  day!!

 

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Final Message for 2015!

Greetings Parents!!

We have just one day left before a well-deserved holiday.  The beauty of winter vacation the Moscow way is that extra bit of time that we have in January before we need to return.  You’re welcome!  But, let’s make sure to be back in seats on Monday the 11th to bask in the renewed energy after our sojourn to all points of the compass.

But, before you leave, allow me a bit of time to thank someone and then lightly scold the rest of you.  My thanks to Mr. Baillieu for his response to my request from last week regarding sending messages of hope and possibility to our students:

James Thurber is better known for his humourous writings such as ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ but he was something of a philosopher as well. He said, “Look not back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.” Appropriate words for these times. Never lose hope! — James Baillieu, parent

Wonderful response and perfect to the assigned task.  Thank you! Powerful words of encouragement that I can enthusiastically share with students.

Now, here comes the slight scolding part.  One response?!?!?  Really?!?!?  I know it is a busy time of year, so I hear the concern that emerged through your lack of participation.  Therefore, like any good teacher, I’m hereby extending your deadline to January 10.  That should give you plenty of time for contemplation and thoughtful consideration of your messages of encouragement for our youth.  When you are ready to respond, the place remains the same – please click here.

Remember, you are not limited by language.  Feel free to respond in your language of choice and greatest familiarity.

Beyond this, let me simply wish everyone well for the upcoming vacation!!  Wherever the break takes you, stay safe and know that we will be counting the days until your return.  I hope, at least in part, that the season brings time with family, nurtured by the hopes and dreams of the holiday spirit!!

For those few families that are saying farewell at this juncture, and there are always a few, our regular message to you and yours:  Once a Penguin, Always a Penguin!!  Your legacy of contribution will live on in our hearts and memories!

Ho Ho Ho & Happy Holidays!!

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Newsletter – December 9, 2015 – Calling on all parents…

HoldEarth

In past weeks, we have oft reflected on the “tone” of the world.  Coming out of recent events, I think we have done well in maintaining a calm and safe environment for students in an often chaotic environment with mixed messages.  While I think most students weave through their day relatively unaware of world events, there is always the chance that they become cognizant of the more challenging events, and, therefore, become confused and concerned.  I realize that, while we do our best to nurture and dialog with students about world events, it may be there is a lack of balance between the more sombre and troubling messages of violence and anger, and the messages of hope and peace that are so often associated with the season that is now upon us.  How terrible it is that we head into the Winter Holiday pondering terrorist attacks and rampant prejudice and intolerance.

Out of a desire to demonstrate to students how we can model for them a globally aware society of contributing citizens, I’d like to ask your help in developing messages of hope and possibility, rather than despair and frustration. I’d like to use the blog function of this newsletter (my Zimplicity Blog) to capture your thoughts and share them with students in upcoming assemblies.  It’s easy – just click on the link below and enter your message to our students in the comment box that appears.

The message is “advice to future generations” or “how to bring peace to the future.” I know that amongst our parent population there are articulate and powerful leaders – dads and moms who can powerfully share their beliefs about how we could make the world a better place.

So, I’m asking your help, parents. Write a message to the students of AAS regarding what you think it means to contribute as globally aware citizens.  Tell them what they should consider as they begin to plan their lives beyond their school years.  Take some time this weekend and post your comments to this blog entry and share with our students what you think needs to happen to bring peace in their time.  The challenge is given, and I look forward to your creativity and honesty for the children we all serve.

By the way, you are welcome to post in your own language if you prefer.  We can compile translations when we share with students at assemblies next week or in January.

Thank you in advance for your contributions!!

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Newsletter – December 2

Happy December, Everyone!!

I first want to take this opportunity to welcome the last additions to our administrative team in preparation for next year.  As informed previously, Noah Bohnen will be moving into our MS Principal role next year and Michelle Alzamora will be moving into the ES Principal spot.  We’ve also already announced that Rob Doyle is departing to his new role as Principal in Dhaka. Therefore, we have been busy in process on our appointments to the Assistant Principal positions at all three levels.

Groves MattIn High School, we are pleased to announce that Mr. Matt Groves will be taking over as the new HS Assistant Principal.  Matt is currently teaching IB History and Economics, but also has a long history in ESOL work both here and in previous schools.  He received his Master’s Degree from George Mason University and is currently working towards his post-Master’s certification in Educational Leadership.  Matt has served on a number of committee and taken on unique challenges here at AAS, most recently joining us on strategic work on the Core Planning Team.

Cormier KaristiKaristi Cormier will be joining us from Shanghai American School as the new Middle School Assistant Principal.  Karisti hails from Iowa, but most recently has worked at the American School in London and Shanghai American.  In London, Karisti was Grade 8 English teacher and Dean of Students, while in Shanghai, was Grade 8 Team Leader and Humanities teacher on the Pudong Campus.  Her Master’s Degree is from University of Iowa and she hold the Certificate of International School Leadership from the Principal’s Training Center.  We are very excited to have Karisti join us next year.

Hinton JeffFinally, welcome Jeff Hinton to the ES Assistant Principal position alongside Mr. McKillip and Mrs. Alzamora rounding out the ES administrative team.  Jeff is currently known as Mr. Hinton in Grade 3, but came to AAS originally from Singapore American School.  He has taught many age levels including Kindergarten and Grade 3.  Mr. Hinton has his Bachelor’s Degree from University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada and completed his Master’s Degree at Trinity Western University in British Columbia.  He holds Ontario Principal Qualifications and additional qualifications in English as a Second Language (ESL) and Special Education. Welcome, Mr. Hinton!!

Upcoming Performances

As we head into the final days before the Winter Break, please take the opportunity to enjoy one of our many performances. While I know your focus will be on the offerings where your own children are performing, I would ask the whole community to consider attending as many of our performances as possible, crossing all boundaries. There is always plenty of seating space in our venues, and there is nothing that validates the work of our children more than filling the audience with clapping and proud adults. I’ll be at every one of these. Please join me!! The schedule is always sent to you via this newsletter. Take note!!

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Newsletter – November 25

Updating last week’s words revolving around security, let me share with you that we continue to be in touch with all the relevant authorities including the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy and their extended network throughout the world.  We continue to be cautious in this regard, choosing to relay information when appropriate.  We are very much aware of decisions by other schools in Moscow to take additional actions beyond our own decisions so far.  Based on the advice being given to us from relevant sources, we are not planning to change our current advice, which is consistent with the multi-national briefings.  While we will be vigilant and prudent in our decision-making, we will not be taking action to cancel activities or field trips in the greater Moscow vicinity.  We are checking all trips outside of Moscow with our advising agencies prior to each departure.  We are echoing the advice of authorities that has been published broadly:

  • take extra caution in public settings and be aware of your surroundings
  • prepare in your homes for emergencies as we all should
  • practice family based home emergency response plans
  • make sure important contact information is updated with the school including any changed mobile numbers and other emergency contact information.

If you need to check on your information, you can call the divisional office and ask at any time.  Our offices prepare monthly reports with all needed contact information to take with us in the case of an emergency evacuation. As detailed in our Emergency Plan, we will then contact you on the care and safety of your child.

We plan to run another test of our SMS emergency system on Monday afternoon, November 30th.  We won’t be doing a feedback loop this time, but if you don’t receive our message on Monday for some reason, please contact us to check.  We have also added MS and HS students to our database, so they will be receiving the message as well.

The School Board recently approved the latest edits to the school emergency plan.  Please review it on our website at http://www.aas.ru/emergency.

Parent Conferences

Tomorrow, we gather for one of those waypoints in the year where we strengthen our partnership in your child’s growth and development.  I hope you will all engage in this opportunity in the different formats through which we present this information.  Each division has worked hard to prepare in order to be both informative and thoughtful about next steps in your child’s learning.  We look forward to seeing all of you on the day.

Many Thanks!!

Another holiday that we are celebrating this week is the US Thanksgiving Day.  On this particular Thanksgiving Day, let me take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks for all the wonderful contributing members of our AAS family.  Whether student, parent, faculty, staff, or administrator, you are all part of a marvelous tapestry of community that regularly wraps its arms around us all in joy and enthusiasm.  Our students feel the love and acceptance of an environment where we all create and contribute, each in our own way.  Thank you for being an integral part of this marvelous place we call school!!

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November 18 Newsletter

Happy Wednesday and welcome to the wonderful dusting of white I’m viewing outside my window tonight as I gaze through the collection of colorful socks that currently adorn the glass!!

PTO Enhancement Grants were presented at PTO this week, and I couldn’t be prouder of the student-led initiatives that were presented, along with the array of projects from across the school.   I encourage your earnest participation in the PTO vote on these projects. Online voting will be begin today and close November 23.

One grant application is the request for funds to support a keynote speaker at our upcoming TEDx Conference December 17.  High School students have been leading and developing this program for four years now and this, the fifth iteration, is working toward expanding their presence even further.  TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is an acronym for an annual conference that is dedicated to “ideas worth spreading.”  Many fascinating people cross the TED stage each year, and their short and insightful presentations are made freely available to the world.

Similarly, over the last four years, our kids have created a video catalog of their speeches, some by students, some by teachers, and some by welcomed guests.  At this year’s December 17 conference, we plan to welcome others to our audience  in the hopes of spreading these messages of innovation and creativity even further.  The initial link to our current upcoming event is here: https://www.ted.com/tedx/events/16382

More details will follow soon.  If you’d like to pursue the catalog of TEDxAAS videos, click HERE.

Thanks again to PTO for supporting our community’s dreams!!

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Terrorist Threats and the Paris Attacks

I write to you today saddened and confused.  A weekend of thought has not yet brought me to any level of understanding of the depth of the tragedy on Friday.  Tears have flowed for our friends that hail from France, in condolence for their loss of family, friends, and countrymen.  Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

We do not know of any in our community who have been directly affected by this tragedy.  We have heard messages of friends and family that have been contacted and confirmed safe.  For that we are thankful.

As you are likely aware, the focus is not entirely on Paris.  In the waning hours of last week, many of us saw news on CNN regarding potential attacks of a similar nature planned for this country.  In a video posting on Thursday, ISIS had threatened to bring harm to Russia.

Based on consultation with our usual sources of information, it was determined that it was too early to assess these threats.  The Russian Government reported similarly, but that it was still investigating the video and associated messages.  We went to the weekend considering a more global message to the community in the coming days.

However, we did immediately alert guard staff to raise their awareness last Thursday, and checked our plans and procedures, as we always do.  We feel confident that both our campuses in Moscow and in St. Petersburg provide a localized and appropriate level of security.  We continue to maintain an open channel of communication with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg, and our other founding embassies and consulates in both cities.  More information will be made available in the coming days, which will be passed to you in future communication.

As always, we hold your children’s safety as our most important responsibility.  To that end, we ask your help by keeping a watchful eye at all times and particularly in the days and weeks ahead.  When out and about in Moscow and St. Petersburg, a higher level of awareness is also recommended.  Prudent prior planning and awareness of your surroundings is the best defense in an emergency.

We will, as always, provide an atmosphere for open dialog and safety for your children at school each day.  We know that the maintenance of routines is an important part of keeping all of us comforted in the face of significant events.  You are our partners in this.

When hate lashes out against love, and particularly in a city that is known as the cultural heart of the world, we know that, in the end, love will survive and thrive as we nurture together the children that will bring peace to this planet.  I am always encouraged by that aspect of our mission and your earnest collaboration toward our common goal.

 

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Newsletter – November 11, 2015

Weekly update includes this week one additional administrative announcement.  I’m happy to report that we have concluded an agreement with Michelle Alzamora to move into the lead chair at the Elementary Division as the new principal.  Over the last 5 years, Mrs. Alzamora has held various roles at the school including teacher, Literacy Coordinator, and Assistant Principal.  We are excited that she has committed herself to honoring the work of the division and reaffirmation of the path they have set for growing and learning as a team.

On the more educational side of things, I wanted to share with you some nuggets that I gleaned from the recent IB Regional Heads Conference in the Hague.  David Perkins, one of the keynote speakers, shared some insight into their work in instructional planning. Like our work on personalized learning, he talked at length about “Life Worthy Learning!”  His work at Harvard Project Zero has led to a new initiative referred to as Learning that Matters (LtM).  This is a leadership initiative in partnership with the Independent Schools Victoria (ISV), Australia.  Of particular note is a white paper discussing the conceptual framework for leadership in the context of LtM.  It starts by understanding the trends in the expanding universe of what’s worth teaching.  This is referred to as the 6 Beyond’s:

  1. Beyond content – 21st century skills, competencies, etc., such as critical and creative thinking, collaboration, communication, self-management.
  2. Beyond local – Global perspectives, problems, and studies, as with our global economy or worldwide problems of energy or water supplies.
  3. Beyond topics – Content as tools for thinking and action, for instance with regard to some of the big issues above.
  4. Beyond the traditional disciplines – Renewed and extended visions of the disciplines, for instance broader views of history or studies of contemporary communication technologies.
  5. Beyond discrete disciplines – Interdisciplinary topics and problems, such as the roots of intergroup human conflict or poverty.
  6. Beyond prescribed content – Learners as choosers of what they learn well beyond the typical use of “electives.”

His argument is that there is a growing importance in looking at a combination of deciding what needs less focus because of its declining degree of importance and coupling this with a look at how other things can be combined and expanded to grow deeper understanding and applicability to new situations.

I couldn’t help but notice some of the parallels of this work with our work on personalized learning descriptors.  The current cornerstones definitions speak to student learning that crosses disciplinary lines, and provides a deeper understanding that is tuned to interests and passions.  Beyond #6 is particularly focused on this type of “chosen” learning.

While we work hard every day considering how to increasingly articulate curriculum and outcomes through standards and assessments, we are also defining and understanding the plausible futures that 21st century thinking demands.  We all struggle with trying to predict what the future may hold for our youth, it is clear that some elements of the future are fairly easy to predict.  We know our students will face significant challenges that will test their ability to innovate and learn.  We know that technology will continue to grow as an influence in their lives.  We know that they will increasingly face the challenges of scarcity and the essential need to reevaluate their partnership with the planet.

And we can also hope that they will reap the benefits of their collaborative spirit when issues of peace and prosperity are achieved through the efforts of an enlightened generation.  I have every faith that our globally aware graduates of AAS will contribute significantly to that accomplishment.

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